The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert

The Boron Letters is a series of letters written by Gary Halbert, one of the highest-paid copywriters. The letters were written to his son, Bond Halbert, to give advice on life, marketing, and how he’s found success in direct mail marketing. Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Book In 3 Sentences

  • Try things at least twice. Just the second attempt at anything hard will be much easier.
  • Discover the market first before creating a product.
  • To produce good copywriting, don’t try to sell something, try to make it personal.

Book Summary + Notes

On Edeavour

  1. Try things at least twice. Just the second attempt at anything hard will be much easier.
  2. Everyone wants to climb the mountain, but the big difference between those at the top and those still on the bottom is simply a matter of showing up tomorrow to give it just one more shot.
  3. When you depend on others you give yourself an excuse for failure.
  4. Rely on your own strength instead of somebody else’s compassion.
  5. A support system is like a garden and you always need to be on the lookout for weeds to pull.
  6. The money is where the enthusiasm is. Please remember this! Remember it also, when, in the future, you need to hire someone. Always look for the most enthusiastic person, not necessarily the most qualified.
  7. Some people write down their goals and go over them every day. This amounts to the same thing and is great.
  8. Carry yourself with confidence (not arrogance) in everything you do and people will respond to it in a good way.
  9. You never get a second chance to make a first impression
  10. Please remember this word: HALT. HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired and you should never make a decision when you are any of those things. What should you do? What I did. Write, run, walk, talk, jog, etc.

Sell Effectively With Less Effort

Become a student of markets

Now, pay attention. The very first thing you must come to realize is that you must become a 'student of markets'. Not products. Not techniques. Not copywriting. Not how to buy space or whatever. Now, of course, all of these things are important and you must learn about them, but, the first and the most important thing you must learn is what people want to buy.

It makes sense to us that entrepreneurs should look for ways to sell what they have created. However, Gary thinks of that as a mistake. He emphasized that you should always find a market first… and then concentrate on a product—rather than asking “how do I make people buy my product?”, ask instead “what are people looking for that I can provide?”.

The key here is to observe. Do not listen to what people say they would buy, look instead at what and where they spend their money on. Gary points out that people often have a false idea of who they are as buyers. In other words, people would say that they don’t like something but they would still keep buying it.

He also stressed the importance of trusting the data but not the claim by giving an example of a world’s best-selling magazine that almost everyone he talks to claim they don’t read.

Sell people what they want to buy

When you have studied and decided on the market, the next step will be the selling. There are two aspects:

Audience—Selling becomes a whole lot easier when you’re selling it to the right person. For example, it is easier to sell a stethoscope to a doctor; a shovel to a farmer; a web-hosting service to a blogger. Before you start writing, be sure to know everything about your target audience.

Products or services—Now, a good market becomes a magnet for competitors, and similar products or services will be offered everywhere. Gary makes a point that going the little extra mile to add professionalism goes a long way to successful marketing; always aim to stay one step ahead.

For example, when offering a product or service, some aspects you should consider:

  1. Price—is it a reasonable price to pay for your products or services?
  2. Product/services—what does your product or service do that makes them better than what is already on the market?
  3. Services—Good customer service is the key to creating happy customers.

Writing a good sales copy

AIDA formula

“By formula I mean you should work within a proven sequential outline like AIDA. What does AIDA stand for? It stands for ATTENTION, INTEREST, DESIRE, ACTION.”

First, grab their attention.

It is impossible for a person to read every single resource available. And to make others read yours, you have to grab their eyeballs right from the start.

Turn browsers into readers by sparking their curiosity with a good headline. But make sure you get the right kind of attention and never through irrelevant clickbaits; that will only make your readers feel insulted and angry.

Remember the “OMG!!!!! YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!” links that brought you to a website filled with annoying ads? Don’t you just feel annoyed?

Second, spark their interest.

Now that you’ve got their attention, it’s time to hold onto them by feeding them relevant and interesting facts—like how companies that blog get 97% more links to their websites, or that 77% of internet users read blogs regularly and 72% of online marketers describe content creation as their most effective SEO tactic. Alternatively, tell a story that resonates with your readers and how your solution (product or service) solves that problem.

Third, intensify their desire.

Rouse their desire by describing the benefits they will get if they buy your product or service. Don’t tell, paint a picture.

For example, having more money will give your more freedom: the freedom to work anytime you want, travel anywhere, and make money even when you sleep.

More examples:

“And, just wait till you step into that warm inviting jacuzzi that comes with every apartment. Man oh man! The feel of that soothing bubbling water against your bare skin is just plain heaven.”

“You’ve heard of the expression about how you won’t believe your eyes? Well, this is one time you won’t believe your eyes. No kidding. The delightful aroma of these charcoal broiled steaks will remind you how good it feels to be genuinely hungry”

Finally, lead them to take action

Now that you’ve set up a goal in their mind, it’s time to guide them towards taking action. Be very clear and specific with your call to action.

For example, click on the blue link that says “click here”, enter your information and click “confirm”. You will receive a confirmation e-mail within minutes.

Don’t try to sell something, try to make it personal

“You can do a better selling job when at first it does not appear you are attempting to do a sales job.”

While copywriting is about turning your readers into customers, you shouldn’t focus heavily on selling your product or service. Instead, you should focus more on engaging with your readers by first telling them a story that resonates with them and then provide them with your solution (i.e. your product or service).

Customize and personalize your copy—write “dear [name]—never ever write “to whom it may concern”.

When offering a deal, give a reason

A deal seems more legit and compelling if you include the reason for your offer. Are you offering a deal because you’re moving out or closing down? Is it an anniversary? Let them know.

Details drive believability

Giving exact details that are relevant to your product or service increases the believability of your copy. While it may be true that “most people think so”, it seems more believable when you say “77.6% of people think so”.

Fine-tuning your sales copy

Good writing and bad writing

“The very best writing goes unnoticed. That’s right. You don’t want someone to read one of your ads and say “Gosh, that advertisement was sure well written! No. What you really want is for the reader to order from your ad. Listen up dummy. “If you are writing for applause... you will go home with empty pockets!”

Gary defines bad writing as having:

  • Long sentences and long paragraphs
  • Narrow side margins
  • Small type and very little white space anywhere on the page.

Gary’s tips on good writing:

  1. Use simple common everyday words—use “get” instead of “procure”.

  2. Use transition words and phrases to make your writing flow smoothly.

    • Well, as a matter of fact, I first…..
    • Now, naturally, we don’t want to….
    • And, of course, here is what she said…
        3. Ask questions once in a while and then answer them yourself.
    • Bond, do you understand what I am saying? You do. Good, then let’s go on.
    • How do we get the benefits? The answer is simple. All we have to do is….
    • Can you imagine that? I know it seems unbelievable but facts are facts!
  1. Use parentheses to make your copy easier to read. “You can make your copy easier to read by the judicious use of parentheses. For example, if you want to tell people that your offer is good anywhere in the U.S. (except Alaska) the proper use of parentheses, as I just did, makes the copy easier-to-read, easier to understand, and provides a little “eye relief” for your reader.”
Read your copy out loud

To improve your copywriting, one trick is to read your copy out loud. When To improve your copywriting, one trick is to read your copy out loud. When you do that, you will notice the flaws and rough spots in your copy. Then, focus on rewriting those parts and until it sounds do that, you will notice the flaws and rough spots in your copy. Then, focus on rewriting those parts and until it sounds smooth.

Copywriter habits

Keep A Swipe File

A swipe file is a collection of resources like the best ads, articles, notes of unusual info, new ideas, good layouts, and everything else that you want to refer to from time to time. In general, a swipe file is like an arsenal for creative copywriting ideas.

Handwriting the best ads

Select the good ads written by some of the best copywriters and copy those ads in your own handwriting. Gary notes that while it may seem like a silly thing to do that most people can’t be bothered about, it is a way of internally imprinting the process of good writing on your mind and body; and when done consistently, you will develop a deep understanding of what it takes and what it feels like to write a good piece of copy.

Personal Thoughts

Most of his advice, especially on advertisement and marketing, is great. However, I can not bring myself to agree with his advice on diet (i.e. fasting the entire day and going for a long run first thing the next morning).

Nonetheless, this is a great book for people who attempts to start a business or improve their marketing skills by building a solid marketing foundation. 

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About Stephanie Jyet Quan Loo

Founder of, a science geek, sports freak, and polyglot. Loves food, books, and snow. Feel free to say hi! 

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